The value of data and information

An investment in advanced data collection technology returns value far beyond meter reading and billing.

The traditional view of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is that it provides reductions in meter reading costs and improvements in meter reading operations. While this is true, it is far from the whole story. The greater story is the exploding value of infrastructure-wide usage information. In truth, data that is collected for $1 today will be worth orders of magnitude more in the future. This is possible by transforming data that is currently used for billing purposes into information with strategic applications along the interdependencies of a fully realized smart city infrastructure, one where a full value chain is optimized and performing against this connected and shared data.

Five areas in which AMI data can be used include:

  • Improving revenue cycle services through increasing operating efficiency, increasing the efficiency of field staff, and improving revenue assurance.
  • Managing the local distribution system through the immediate reporting of any outages, planning system improvements, forecasting load and usage, and correlation against other smart infrastructure usage patterns.
  • Managing deregulated/customer choice environments through improved forecasting, reconcilement and settlements, improved outage detection and reliability, meeting new data requirements, integrating renewables, and preparing for retail competitiveness along the entirety of the customer value chain.
  • Delivering new services including updated billing options, monitoring and data delivery services, consulting and other services, submetering, and alternative wireless communications avenues.
  • Delivering value to the end customer by identifying usage patterns, providing monitoring and data delivery services, allowing for submetering, giving customers billing options that best suit their needs, and integrating customer-facing servicing and response systems such as dedicated webpages or smart phone applications.

The new uses and new users of information have forged a new economic reality in today’s smart city infrastructure. Information – the ability to gather it, manage it, distribute it, correlate it, action it and maximize its value will be key arbiters of success in the fully connected marketplace of the 21st century. That’s why we’ve included comprehensive analytics in our DataSCAPE™ product as well as scalability in the system to enable expansion along a connected smart city infrastructure within our Delta Smart Grid Network™.

Augmented Reality for Electrical Utilities

A utility field technician’s day is filled with frequent stopping and starting to access and assess the distribution system—and the utility bears the burden of what happens when resources get stretched too thin. How can it make sure that the right data is available to the right person, in the right format and at the right time and place in order for the insights from that data to provide practical value? One way is to bring augmented reality (AR) tools to the utility’s field force. By equipping field personnel with AR tools, utilities can streamline things like asset health assessments, service documentation review, repair requirement summaries, repair qualification activities, work order prioritization, location routing and more.

One example of using AR to improve efficiencies is demonstrated in a 2017 proof of concept between the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Duke Energy which tested the use of augmented reality in assessing storm damage. In the project, field workers wore a heads-up display (HUD) units incorporating a monocular screen that provided key information to keep assessments accurate and consistent. This screen overlaid information on the user’s field of view, enhancing their capability to real-time visualize actionable date on that subject matter at hand. The field crews were very positive about their experience and Duke Energy calculated that for a typical, 4-day outage impacting 250,000 customers, using AR would save around 12 hours of restoration time—or $8.25M for customers with an average power consumption of 900kWh per month.

Another way AR could be used is for general servicing and repair. Augmented reality would be able to overlay key performance data into the field of vision for a service technician allowing him or her to immediately assess the health of an asset. For example, being able to see the load, temperature and oil level of a transformer simply by looking up at it with an AR device would expedite identification of any issues. This AR capability would instantly allow a field technician to prioritize service actions against multiple assets within their field of view, all without opening, powering and inquiring using traditional keyboard centric field devices.

It’s important to note, according to EPRI’s 2018 literature review of human factors issues in the Electric Power Industry, there is still a shortage of human factors and occupational safety research for AR devices. Therefore, guidelines for the appropriate amount of time for safe and effective AR usage are lacking. This being true, as the technology progresses and electric utilities continue to experiment with using it more information will become available and, similar to other adjacent markets, we anticipate pick-up in adoption of this exciting user interface methodology.

Doing well by doing good

With the holidays upon us, many of us at Delta are thinking about how we can “give back” and have a positive impact on our communities and the greater world. At our core, we at Delta believe business and social issues should not be mutually exclusive—which is why so many of us take time from our busy professional schedules to give back during this season, and throughout the year.

Whether making monetary or goods donations to organizations like St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, local schools, churches and veterans organizations, or donating our time at local food banks and senior citizen centers, our employees are doing well by doing good. That same spirit is reflected in our company commitment to empowering sustainable business models that not only provide positive economic outcomes for our customers, but also do good for the larger community – especially in underserved populations around the world.

If we can help communities to build out infrastructure in the right way, we can empower and enhance the economic positions of our customers. And, in parallel, we can address critical social issues by enabling broader access to a world of knowledge otherwise inaccessible to many of these same communities. This in turn enables opportunities for those in underserved populations to empower and better their own futures. That’s especially significant in places like sub-Saharan Africa, where more than two-thirds of the population are without access to electricity and many do not enjoy the same digital connectivity many take for granted in developed regions.

From an educational standpoint, a digitally connected community is empowered to learn, grow, and gain access to new information. This access also provides a platform for communities to explore business ideas, research, and turn concepts into a reality. And finally, it helps brings communities into the broader digital world, enhancing their position as a global digital citizen.

We are incredibly proud of our employees and the work we do with our partners around the world to not only help improve their businesses, but also help communities grow and thrive.

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Solving business and social issues in tandem: how our technology helps developing communities grow

Food, water, energy – these are the three most fundamental social needs facing the world’s population. And at the point where these three basic needs intersect there are even more difficult challenges to address – it takes water to create food and energy; it takes energy to move, heat and treat water, and to produce food; and sometimes food crops become the source of energy. Because they are interconnected and interdependent, actions or change with respect to one will certainly impact another or both.

Today we also see emerging markets expanding exponentially; all while critical infrastructure and necessary resources are lagging. Without Internet access, these underserved populations in the developing world aren’t able to utilize web-based healthcare or education resources to improve their earning ability or advance their well-being. Not to mention the challenges brought about by the digital divide between urban centers and rural districts, and poorly developed and/or managed infrastructure that make it even more difficult. Despite these challenges, and rather than relying on the legacy infrastructure available in the developing world, there are opportunities to adopt and implement technologies specifically suited for local market conditions. By focusing on new technologies to address these needs and pursuing public-private partnerships, it’s possible for emerging markets to move forward toward development, prosperity and growth.

At Delta, we understand the association between these needs, and how energy and Wi-Fi can provide the foundation for people in developing communities to grow and thrive. We recognize how our unique solution can be brought to bear in taking on and solving these kinds of local social and economic issues, in order to provide opportunities for those in underserved populations to become empowered to better their future.

For example, when a local utility builds out and optimizes its system using our Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN™) – a singular, standardized, and scalable network that enables underserved communities – it’s not only optimizing its power delivery, it’s also building out our Wi-Fi network, essentially creating a large hot-spot. And with Internet access now available, the opportunity to expand education, support micro-enterprise and empower the local economy will surely follow.

Our philosophy at Delta is that business and social issues are not mutually exclusive; each needs to be addressed in ways that empower the other. Through efficient access to energy and then access to the Internet, underserved populations will be able to tap into the many Internet-based resources currently unavailable to them. They’re then empowered to pursue microenterprise and contribute to the local economy.

Ultimately, our vision is to engage with global non-profits and development funds to realize and expand this capability in these underserved markets.